By Keith Sharp
Having reached that dreaded contractual obligation `Greatest Hits’ point in their collective careers, Antigonish Nova Scotia’s The Trews knew they had reached a significant landmark in what had been an illustrious 15-year journey. Do they view their 2016 `Time Capsules’ release as the beginning of the end of their creativity or do they utilize the release as the start of a whole new career chapter?
Band lead vocalist Colin MacDonald is on the line to confirm his band has decided on the latter, and with a new 13-track studio release, titled `Civilianaires’, a new record label, Cadence, a new drummer in Chris Gormley and even new U.S-based management(Gold Village Entertainment) under noted impresario Danny Goldberg, The Trews are about to undertake an entirely fresh approach as they move forward.
“We were dragged kicking and screaming to do a `Greatest Hits’, it was a contractual obligation with Bumstead Records and it was like ‘we’re not really at this stage are we?” grimaced MacDonald. “But we are always writing so we added four new songs to the 16 previous tracks just to let people know we were still trying to push things forward.”
Yet after the band executed their `contractually obligated’ Greatest Hits, Canadian tour, Messer’s Colin and John Angus MacDonald (guitarist), bassist Jack Syperek and stand-in drummer Gavin Maguire needed to undertake a drastic overhaul.
“After that tour, we felt a little stale,” MacDonald noted. “So we wanted to change everything about what we did. If people liked what we did before, they had that with Time Capsules, but from that point on, we wanted to challenge ourselves and record something different. Our attitude was that there was no point carrying on if we were not making music we were inspired about.”
The first change the band undertook was in the writing process of their demos. “In the past, we have always looked up to people we had respect for in asking for advice, people like The Tragically Hip, Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson (who produced their first album) and legendary producer Jack Douglas (who produced their second album),” explained MacDonald. “But this time around, we started to realize that a lot of the new people coming up had a lot to offer and some of them had some great music going on so it was like `let’s see what you guys can do.”
The Trews had been key in discovering Kingston’s Glorious Sons (John Angus produced their first album) so they found a fresh sounding board with band lead vocalist Brett Emmons and they also struck up a relationship with Arkells’ lead vocalist Max Kerman who collaborated on four songs off the album. And then there’s Colin’s fiancé, Serena Ryder who chipped in with her own insight. “I’d be at the piano, working on a song and she’d be reading a book or something and she’d say ` I think you need another bridge!’. She’s is one of the most creative people I know and she’s already taught me things like vocal restraint which you can definitely hear on some of the more melodic tracks.”
A new writing approach also required a fresh input from a produced and the band’s first choice was Bob Rock, yet sessions in both Hamiton and Vancouver only resulted in four completed tracks. “Bob is a giant, a legend, a genius but we didn’t leave his studios thinking this is the thing! Something about the sessions just didn’t feel right.”
Returning to Toronto, they were directed by their new Cadence label to an up and coming producer, Derek Hoffman and so they decided to check him out. “We thought the spark had gone out but with Derek it came rocking back!” MacDonald enthused. “We went to his little studio in the east end of Toronto, located in the basement of a condominium complex and our instincts told us immediately he was really awesome. He pushed us in different directions and we recorded like we had never recorded before.”
Learning from the current social media environment, the band have already released three singles; The Donald Trump-inspired “The New US”, “Vintage Love” and the band’s latest on-line release, “Bar Star”.
Trump may be an easy target right now, but the band were disturbed by what they witnessed during a U.S tour last year and felt they had to respond to their observations, even though some people have been critical of the band’s pro political stance on that particular song.
“We’ve already had people tell us, `hey dude, you lost me on that song but It was one of those emotional songs that came about because of us touring in the U.S last summer,” related MacDonald. “All that garbage about what was happening in Charlottesville. We were like, what the fuck is going on down there. It makes you very angry. Like you are witnessing the cesspool of humanity down there.”
What is noticeable about `Civillianaires’ is the album’s overall strong production of tracks like “Bar Star”. “Leave It Alone” and “Vintage Love” played off against more melodic ballads like “Amen”, “Is It Too Late” and the hook-laden “Harder To Love”.
“I think there is a lyrical thread about maintaining a sense of hope, even during these troubled times.” MacDonald explained. “Things aren’t perfect but you have to hang on to your humanity.”
With a new drummer on board in the shape of former Big Sugar percussionist, Chris Gormley, a new record company and U.S representation from Danny Goldberg, the band is completing a series of festival dates this summer before taking a major run at the U.S this fall to be followed by a Canadian tour to promote the new opus next Spring.
“We are really excited about working with Danny. We were at his New York office and he has personal letters from Kurt Cobain on his wall,” enthused MacDonald. “He’s managed the likes of Nirvana, Stevie Nicks and Warren Zevon but he’s also worked with Blue Rodeo and Tom Cochrane so we are hoping he can help us make some inroads into the United States”.
The Trews can be viewed locally at the Toronto Blue Jays game on Friday August 25th at the Rogers Centre and at The CNE Bandshell Sunday September 2nd.
For more information on the band, please link to www.thetrewsmusic.com